The Most Powerful Leadership Question

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Guest Post by Jeff Harmon

Nothing can animate the future quite like a question. For leaders, living in questions instead of giving answers or having something to say is a powerful place to be.

Questions makes us learners, open ourselves and those we’re leading to possibilities and creates a more safe, level playing field between you and your team.

I have a number of favorite questions in my leadership that animate the future for those I ask, but the most powerful leadership questions are those I ask myself.

Effective leadership starts on the inside. Before we can hope to possibly lead anybody else, we first have to lead ourselves. We self-lead to shift our focus from what about me to a perspective that is outwardly focused on serving and leading others with character and intention.

The most powerful self-leadership question you can ask yourself is:

What is life like for those I’m leading?

Let’s look more closely at this question to fully understand the scope and implications of asking the question.

Life – We tend to compartmentalize life into work, family, faith and any number of other sub-divisions that might classify as having a life of their own. When we think of leadership we tend to only think of that part of life where we’re associated with the person.

However, the life that you impact is inclusive of all aspects of life, not just the eight to ten hours you’re together. The life referred to in this question is spiritual, emotional, family, work, physical and any other part of their human experience.

You may not be able to impact each one of these areas, but considering them all when you ask the question gives you a full view of the entire person you’re leading.

Like – One dictionary definition of this work is: similar, comparable to, resembling. Using these words, the question could read: what does life resemble or is similar to for those you lead?

What’s the experience they are having? Is it like a nightmare? Is it like a trip to the dentist? Is it like something they could live without?

We forget sometimes that work is more than just fulfillment of duties but part of a person’s human experience.

Those I’m Leading – The answer to this may seem very obvious to some. You are a director or manager and the org chart says that a certain six people work for you.

However, since leadership is about influence and not an organization chart, your leadership extends to anyone who you have influence on whether they are a direct report or not.

On certain projects, you’re influencing your boss, your peers and the vendors supplying services and on others, you’re influencing the team on the factory floor and your clients.

All of this isn’t even to mention your leadership (i.e. influence) of your spouse and kids.

Establish a routine to ask this question: What is life like for those I’m leading? Ask it every day, do something about it, and watch your future be powerfully animated.

When have you last thought about what life is like for those you are leading?
Note from Bob:  I so clearly remember a couple of months after I started working with Josh McDowell in 1979, I said to him, “I really enjoy working for you.”  Josh put one of his hands on each of my shoulders, looked me squarely in the eye and said, “Bob, you don’t work for me – we serve the Lord together!”  That set the tune for the next 24 years that I was privileged to serve the Lord with Josh!
JefJeffHarmonf Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader: A Field Guide to Being the Type of Leader Everyone Dreams of Working for.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy.  You can also connect with Jeff on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Pam Smith   |   26 March 2015   |   Reply

I rotate various signs in my office….I had one for two weeks that said “Relational Deposits” to remind me to invest in my team by asking about life and affirming their value to me and to BTS, and also for others who walk into my office to ask me: “What are Relational Deposits?” so that they can be reminded to do it too.

Bob Tiede   |   26 March 2015   |  

Pam – as always – you are once again adding great value – I love your question: What are Relational Deposits!

Pam Smith   |   26 March 2015   |   Reply

In case some of those who follow your blog would like an answer: (smile!)

When you or another member of your team or organization asks something of someone you lead, the willingness and enthusiasm to respond is directly connected to their relational bank account that you have invested in as the leader.

Every positive relational interaction you have with each team member makes a deposit in the team member’s relational account.

Lots of ways to do it: greet each member of your team with joy each day; ask about their life challenges; listen well; tell each member what you value that day about her/him